As India joins the global Mangrove Alliance for Climate, the focus has once again shifted to conserving one of the most vulnerable coastal species that is facing the increasing threat of climate change. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined other G20 leaders in planting mangroves at the Taman Hutan Raya Ngurah Rai forest in Bali where the G20 Summit is currently underway.
The second day of the summit was focused on finding solutions to global challenges such as the climate crisis and energy transition. The Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) that India joined at COP27 is also a joint initiative of Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.
India’s mangrove cover is significant, with one of the highest biodiversity in the world. As per India State of the Forest Report 2021, the total mangrove cover in the country currently stands at 4,992 sq km. The latest assessment showed that the country recorded an increase of 17 sq km in mangrove cover as compared to the previous assessment of 2019, with the maximum improvement in Odisha (8 sq km) followed by Maharashtra (4 sq km) and Karnataka (3 sq km).
However, as impacts of climate change intensify, the sea-level rise and extreme weather events — including tropical cyclones and storm surges — are putting the tidal forests at increasing risk. The industrial activities along the coastal areas have further aggravated the damage.
Critical For Climate Action
The tidal forests are not only one of the most productive ecosystems of the world, but critical for protecting coastal erosion, sequestering the carbon and providing livelihood for millions of people. They are also important in the fight against climate change, accounting for 3 per cent of carbon sequestered by the world’s tropical forests.
One of the largest remaining areas of mangroves in the world, the Sundarbans support an exceptional level of biodiversity in both the terrestrial and marine environments, including significant populations of a range of flora and plant species; species of wildlife wide range of fauna, including the Bengal Tiger and other threatened species such as the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python.
Studies have shown that mangrove forests can absorb four to five times more carbon emissions than landed tropical forests. They not only act as buffer for ocean acidification but creating new carbon sink from mangrove afforestation and reducing emissions from mangrove deforestation are two feasible ways for countries to meet their NDC targets and achieve carbon neutrality.
As part of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), India has already committed to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
“We see the tremendous potential mangroves have for mitigation of growing greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere,” said Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav at the United Nations Climate Summit (COP27) adding that India can contribute to the global knowledge base due to its extensive experience in mangrove restoration and also benefit from associating with other nations regarding cutting-edge solutions and generating appropriate financial instruments for mangrove conservation and restoration.
The world’s largest coastal Mangrove forest, Sunderbans along the west coast, have been protecting the mainland from storm surges and cyclones more effectively and economically than any man-made storm barrier. Loss of Mangroves would not only result in the loss of this protective biological shield, but would put the entire coastal communities at risk and jeopardise future of human settlements.
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